Is Keto Still The Best Way of Eating for Post-Menopausal Women?
We all know that our dietary needs change as we get older. Maybe we can no longer tolerate spicy foods like we used to. Or perhaps things we ate all the time when we were younger leave us feeling bloated and uncomfortable these days. Many of us have probably noticed that it’s harder to lose weight too. As we adjust our way of eating to accommodate the changes we’re going through, could this mean that keto might not be the best way of eating for us?
In a word, NO – keto is still the healthiest way of eating no matter what your age!
How Are Our Needs Changing?
When we go through menopause, the ovaries shut down, and their function is handed over to the adrenal glands. Increased demand on the adrenals causes a spike in cortisol, the stress hormone. Many women go into menopause already having some degree of adrenal fatigue due to stress, so this is a real double whammy! There’s a spike in insulin levels during this time too (cortisol and insulin pretty much go hand-in-hand). This is why you may see an increase in belly fat as well as in some of the other not-so-fun symptoms of menopause, and why you may have a harder time losing weight.
As we age, growth hormone (the hormone in charge of regulating cortisol levels) begins to decline. Without sufficient amounts, cortisol – and therefore insulin – levels begin to rise.
Excess cortisol is largely responsible for impairing the body’s inability to break down protein into amino acids, which are needed for building muscle. This is why we begin to lose muscle mass as we get older and why we may develop digestive issues we didn’t have in the past.
What Can I Do About It?
To get on top of all this, we need to lower our insulin and cortisol levels, and increase our level of growth hormone.
Ok, great … but how?! Here are some of the best ways I’ve learned to do this:
~ Adopt (if you haven’t already) the keto lifestyle and implement intermittent fasting (IF) in some form to regulate your insulin level. If you’re brand new to keto, you’ll want to work into IF gradually though, as it is most effective after your body has become fat adapted.
~ While we may require slightly more protein to build and maintain muscle mass, we need to also be sure we’re getting sufficient nutrients (vitamins and minerals) to enable us to break down that protein into the amino acids that our bodies can use.
~ Get sufficient amounts of potassium (about 4700 mg daily), calcium and B vitamins in your diet. All of these are helpful to lower cortisol in multiple ways, and they have a ton of other great benefits for your body as well. Nutritional yeast is an excellent source of B vitamins. Electrolytes (sea salt) and trace minerals are also very important.
~ Get sufficient amounts of Vitamin D3. If you can spend 15-20 minutes in the sun each day with a good portion of your skin exposed, which is the ideal way to get vitamin D, this should be enough to keep your level where it should be. When that is not an option though, you may choose to take a supplement. Look for one that contains 2,000 – 5,000 IUs per serving (I have seen recommendations as high as 10,000 but I personally have never taken that much).
If you can find D3 that also includes Vitamin K2, all the better, as these nutrients are needed together to be most effective. You could also opt for a separate K2 supplement or start adding fermented vegetables such as unpasteurized sauerkraut to your diet regularly. An optimal dose of K2 is about 100mg per day.
~ Establish healthy gut flora and optimize your pH level. Vitamin K2 is also very helpful for this; it helps improve the strength and function of our digestive system and helps remove excess calcium that has deposited throughout our body in places it shouldn’t (think joints and arteries). Apple cider vinegar is also helpful for improving digestion, optimizing pH levels and mobilizing calcium in the body.
~ Get more sleep if you’re not already getting enough, and improve the quality of the sleep you do get in whatever ways possible. A lot of the repair work our bodies do
~ Doing low impact exercises such as walking or yoga is great way to lower cortisol.
You Can Do This!
Eating a variety of healthy foods that include a lot of vegetables provides many of the nutrients you need in a day. It may take a little longer to see the results you’re hoping for than it might have when you were younger, but you WILL still reap the benefits! Remember that most of the changes are happening on the inside where you can’t see them, but they are still vitally important to optimal health. Pay attention to your body, to how you look and feel. And to me, this is the real test of whether something is working or not. The keto lifestyle is a marathon, not a sprint, and if you’re in it for the long haul you will see results. Keto on, my friends, and have a great week!